Grapes are a symbol of bounty and celebration.
The hop plant climbs quietly nearby, its soft pale flowers glowing in the sunlight. Hops are supposed to cure insomnia so I could make crunchy hop pillows for sleepless friends. But gifting hops is a symbol of injustice and there is enough of that around these days.
Grapes and Hops. Wine and beer. Tasty vehicles for getting alcohol down your neck. Wonderful for celebrating, guaranteed to bring you to a sticky end. It always starts off so innocently.
A glass of wine? Why not? Wine is rustic villagers gathering grapes on donkeys, vats of antioxidants and a substance so magical it will even keep its price when it has gone rotten. ‘Oh yes’ the wine dealer will sagely tell you ‘This bottle is worth £300 but of course it is undrinkable’. And you save so much money when you buy six bottles and get 25% off. Livers just don’t come into it.
A cleansing ale? Small beer, pavement café in the evening sun. It is a fine line between that and a six pack after the wine. There is a reason somebody coined the name Stella Artwat.
Prosseco! Waving its lunchtime bubbles, promising joy, joining in with jokes, maybe tripping you up for a laugh before chucking you on the sofa with a fogged up head at 4pm. Just when you should be doing some wholesomeness that will now never happen.
And it isn’t just grapes and hops. We ferment any old thing, even worms.
Tequila Yay! Prances along at parties trumpeting that song. Da dada da da, da da. Glistening and tasting like hot oil. Then it does nothing. The song keeps playing, the shots keep coming, and nothing keeps happening until you keel over and lose your dinner. At a party with tequila? Bypass the end bit, sweep up all the food, grab the bottle and chuck everything down the toilet. It saves a lot of bother.
And so it goes on. Gin is crafted with herbs and spices, sherry brings a perfect Christmas, brandy is just something to sniff and whisky means log fires haggis and poetry. Even cider has a go with something about haystacks.
When the pandemic was declared Some People assumed that a licence to drink non-stop had also been declared. Wine sales went through the roof, delivery companies made a fortune, suddenly Some People are counting units and moaning about ‘a bit of a problem’.
Last week my neighbour pronounced herself alcohol free and kindly lent me ‘The unexpected joy of being sober’. How interesting to read the author talking about unfortunate escapades, rows and accidents after nights of horrific binging. How smug I felt as I raced through the book, confident of never having behaved so outrageously.
Then I met a shoe in the dark, deliberately hiding in the wrong place, crashed to the floor and broke my wrist.
It’s Not Fair. My friend Alex jumps off mountains for fun. I know people who hurl themselves from planes, career across plains on horses, drive too fast and dive too deep. All I did was walk over a shoe. But the amount of wine coursing through my poor pandemicstressedoutoverdrinking little veins might have something to do with this terrible injustice.
So I’m taking a break and finding other things to celebrate and do. Here is a random list.
A film. If you have Netflicks and want to end your day sobbing happily about an Octopus watch My Octopus Teacher.
Cold showers. In this house we have been talking about Wim Hof and the health benefits of plunging into ice cold lakes. In the absence of lakes we wondered about cold showers. Inevitably somebody tried it and the house shook with yelps and squeals coming from the bathroom. Now we are all at it, except the cat. Give it a go. There is nothing nicer than not being in a cold shower any more.
Asian cooking. Inspired by a street stall and Hirato buns with crispy sesame tofu, pickled cabbage and spicy sauce exploding with flavour. Armed with tofu, pak choi, stale five spice, rice wine and the wrong oil I made this horrible thing. Making any new food is exciting, even though you have to eat it.
Drying herbs. Bundles of overgrown sage are drying attractively above the cat. Ready for winter and times of need. Sage can taste horrible, a bit like soap, but sage smoke is known as a natural air purifier in some societies. So, when it gets dusty and there are times of need, it can be burnt to clean the house.
And this week saw a small and petty victory.
And outside the garden we have the rule of six. Bloody neighbours, a family of five for God’s sake, bold as brass talking to other neighbours on the street. It was hard to resist Priti Patel’s advice. I should have called 999. They didn’t even have a grouse with them.
Never mind, at least all around us the leaves are beginning to look like this.